The industry can look to how True Tickets solved “the Taylor Swift problem” (albeit at a much smaller scale) for Hamilton with our clients like The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas, Nevada. But before I focus on the solution, let’s understand why the Ticketmaster Taylor Swift debacle happened in the first place.
The Wrong Approach with the Wrong Technology
It should be no surprise that this situation occurred, given both the approach used by Ticketmaster and the technology at play. As this Vice article points out, you (the run of the mill fan) can’t compete with brokers and their capabilities. Combine that with Ticketmaster continuing to double down on trying to solve the problem at the pre-sale (with the Verified Fan program) is a strategic failure. Ticketmaster is attempting to beat brokers at the point where brokers and bad actors are both more capable: the pre-sale.
There is an entirely different discussion to be had about Ticketmaster’s rationale for continuing to operate in this manner (Incompetence? Malfeasance? Simply being technologically incapable of trying anything else?) The issue at hand here is that theirs is a failed strategy, with the outcome being a jailbreak for tickets and once they’re on the market, Ticketmaster throwing up their hands, saying, “Welp, we tried.” The brokers win…and they win in literally seconds.
Time is the Most Critical Dimension to Turn the Tables
Brokers are using time — and specifically, the lack of it — during peak demand of a pre-sale to a massive advantage. But there is an incredible element of time that represents a major advantage for ticket issuers — the span of time between the initial sales and the performance. What if issuers were able to effectively track tickets with identity and controls from sale to scan in a way that completely changes the dimension of time from a weakness to a strength? The technology in place needs to enable that exact capability.
In terms of technology, I don’t specifically mean blockchain (and that is the only time I’ll use that word — much to the dismay of some and the pure joy of others). While time has always been a potential advantage for issuers, technology has now evolved to the point where identity and accountability in ticketing is possible — meaning you don’t need to fight a losing battle solely at the pre-sale or on-sale. This makes combatting the issues in the Ticketmaster Taylor Swift saga manageable. It doesn’t mean you simply give up on addressing challenges at the pre or on-sale; rather, you couple those efforts with capabilities post-sale to thwart the current gap that is being exploited.
Coupling Strategy, Capabilities, and Processes Are How You Win
How did this work with Hamilton at The Smith Center? It wasn’t that hard and only required a few straightforward changes to achieve overwhelming impact. The pre-sales and on-sale went on as it normally did, however, tickets were not delivered until four weeks after the on-sale. This allowed Hamilton and The Smith Center to sort through and correct sales to brokers or bots that they could verify. Once tickets were delivered securely via True Tickets, The Smith Center had an identity and accountability capability in place from delivery to the scan that allows them to quickly rectify any issues that come to their attention.
The impact was impressive. Shows were sold out. Unauthorized secondary market sales were effectively negated. I would routinely check Vivid Seats to see listings for shows in Baltimore, DC, New York, and Rochester that were not using a secure delivery solution like True Tickets, and hundreds — and sometimes over 1,000 tickets — were listed for a performance. For The Smith Center, I might see 4 . . . and The Smith Center staff can deal with issues for 4 tickets, not 1,000. This is no different for our other clients like The Adrienne Arsht Center in Miami and The Dr Phillips Center in Orlando that have made the decision to go all in on secure digital tickets.
Don’t be fooled by the noise: the solution to this problem already exists. Fans need to advocate for it, and organizations need to listen…and to implement it.